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Stars Above: A Lunar Chronicles Collection (The Lunar Chronicles) Hardcover – February 2, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In this short story collection, recommended to those who have already read the author's Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter, readers will be delighted to learn more about the history of their favorite "Lunar Chronicles" characters. Each of the nine entries provides further context, characterization, and world-building to the popular, best-selling series. The introductory stories show how baby Princess Selene ends up in the care of Scarlet's grandmother and describe her early life with the Linh family. From there, readers witness Z taken from his Lunar home as a child to fight in Queen Levana's wolf army, and then peek into Carswell's childhood as he uses his charm to persuade his classmate to tutor him in math. Readers will sympathize with Cress and the shells who are forced to donate blood for Lunar research, and then cheer Princess Winter on in her battle to keep her sanity while refusing to use her gift. The final tale takes place two years after Winter and begins with the group reuniting in France for Scarlet and Wolf's wedding. With the monarchy abolished on Luna and peace between Luna and Earth on its way, this collection ends with a happily ever after for everyone. VERDICT This companion title will not disappoint fans and will make a worthy addition to libraries where the "Lunar Chronicles" are popular.—Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ
"Just when the insanely popular Lunar Chronicles looked finished, this piecemeal, but still quite weighty, book will pull readers right back in." Booklist
"With the monarchy abolished on Luna and peace between Luna and Earth on its way, this collection ends with a happily ever after for everyone." School Library Journal" --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Each of the stories focuses on a character -- some major, some supporting -- in the Lunar Chronicles universe, but several years before the events of the main series. They're in roughly chronological order, beginning with "The Keeper," and Michelle's struggle to care for and hide the Lunar princess in the basement of her farmhouse. Then there is "Glitches," where a small cyborg child is brought to live with her new stepfamily, only to be stranded with a cruel, bitter stepmother and bratty stepsister.
And then there are stories for other characters -- Z, a boy torn from his family and forever altered into an elite, wolfish soldier for the Lunar Queen; Carswell, a wealthy young boy whose schemes and con games are interrupted by compassion; Cress, a young "shell" whose ingenuity causes her to be exiled into space; Winter's regret over the use of her gift prompts her to vow not to use it again, with terrible results; and Kai brings his beloved android to a simple mechanic's shop, with life-changing results.
There is also "The Little Android," a bittersweet tale based on "The Little Mermaid," where a robot falls in love with a human. And there is a new novella called "Something Old, Something New," a tale taking place after the end of the series. Cinder and her friends reunite on Scarlet's farm for a very romantic occasion, and the cyborg has the chance to finally come full circle to where her journey began.
It goes without saying that "Stars Above" is a collection that should only be read after one has finished the rest of the Lunar Chronicles, because it effectively gives away half the twists that take place in the series -- including the ending. While the novels are a complete story unto themselves, these short stories allow Meyer to fill in the cracks between her stories, exploring the characters at pivotal, life-changing points in their lives. For some, it's simply finding a new place in life. For others, it's being physically transformed into something new -- a cyborg or a wolf-man.
One or two of the stories are a bit lightweight ("The Mechanic" is simply Kai and Cinder's first meeting from HIS point of view), but most of them have a wrenching quality at their heart. Most of these tales -- except for Carswell's, and the series' coda -- are stories of loss, pain, death, alienation and the cruelty of Queen Levana, in one way or another -- and Meyer's sleek, detailed writing creates some scenes of true horror (Winter being forced to carve up her own face) or spellbinding beauty ("But she was already vast and bright and endless").
And it does help flesh out the characters even more, especially when they focus on a character who is either very internalized (Ze'ev) or doesn't appear much in the flesh (Michelle, Scar's grandmother). Cinder in particular is explored as a clumsy, amnesiac child who is offered little but scorn, slowly growing from her initial depressed blankness into a clever child who finds a niche where she belongs -- and her brief appearances throughout the stories allow us to see her grow in strength and confidence.
This collection also has a few sample chapters from Meyer's forthcoming book "Heartless," which is based on Lewis Carroll's Wonderland books. It follows Catherine, the daughter of a bombastic Marchioness, who bakes a set of lemon tarts shortly before a royal ball.
Best read after the rest of the series, "Stars Above: A Lunar Chronicles Collection" expands the characters' backstories, adding new richness and depth -- and providing a solid, satisfying coda to the series. Clever, bittersweet and beautifully written.
Anyhow, I'd rank the stories in this order (from best to worst):
1. The Queen's Army
2. The Little Android
3. The Princess and the Guard
5. After Sunshine Passes By
6. Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky
7. The Mechanic
8. Something Old, Something New
9. The Keeper
Generally, I like all the additional material Meyer provides for these characters. Is this a must-read for the series? No. The main books stand on their own, and they stand well!
Story I want expanded into a novel: The hints revealed about Scarlet's grandmother's past in "The Keeper" drew me in so much that I crave more of Michelle Benoit's life and adventures.
Honorable mention: I'm really glad that the wedding readers finally get is between Scarlet and Wolf, rather than Cinder and Kai. Despite this being a young adult series, Meyer does an excellent job of portraying the fact that there is no happily ever after. It's a work in progress, and the story doesn't end on the last page of the book.
A couple of these stories had been released before, but I’d only read one of them, and there’s a nice variety here.
There’s a story featuring Scarlet and her grandma when she was little, during the time that Cinder was first brought over. There’s Wolf’s past, when he was first brought into the army and went through the transformation. Cinder’s story, and Cinder and Kai’s first meeting through Kai’s eyes. There’s a little mermaid-based side-story featuring different characters.
My favorites, though, would have to be Thorne’s story, from when he was growing up and rebelling against his family, and how he helped a girl classmate. Thorne is fun and a sweetheart even when he tries not to be. And Cress’s story, when she was taken from the other shells and used for the queens surveillance. Her story is just sad and hopeless.
But, of course, the main story that everyone is looking forward to, the last one, a last little epilogue. I will admit that I’d wanted more from the other characters point-of-view. But aside from that, it was perfect and adorable. We get to see all the characters again, see how they’re doing and what the world is like now, and there’s a wedding and scheming and it’s just so cute. I love it.
This series could not be more perfect and I will always be wanting more of it. I’m just kind of obsessed with the characters and everything about it.
[More of my reviews are available on my blog, Geeky Reading, to which there's a link on my profile.]
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